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Fox gets front-row seat in White House press room

NEW YORK (AP) - Fox News Channel has been granted a much-coveted front-row seat in the White House briefing room.

The White House Correspondents Association said Sunday that The Associated Press' reporter has been moved to the front-row center seat previously occupied by Helen Thomas. Fox's correspondent will take the AP's former front-row seat, and National Public Radio's correspondent will move up one row to Fox's old second-row seat.

The center seat was long held by Thomas, a United Press International and Hearst News Service writer. The 89-year-old columnist resigned abruptly in June amid controversy over videotaped remarks she made calling on Israelis to get "out of Palestine." Fox, Bloomberg News (also seated in the second row) and NPR had lobbied for Thomas' seat.

Fox's upgrade is an acknowledgment of its "length of service and commitment," the association's board said in a statement.

The bid from Fox for a front-row seat sparked a protest from some over the network's perceived right-wing leanings. The advocacy groups Working Assets and MoveOn.org launched an online campaign through social media website Facebook to lobby the WHCA to give the seat to NPR.

In a statement posted on the Working Assets website Credo Action on Sunday, the group said, "While we're disappointed that the seat did not go to NPR, we're delighted the board found a way to avoid giving the coveted front-row center seat to Fox."

To some, the competition over a front-row seat didn't show White House reporters in the most flattering light. "The Daily Show" host Jon Stewart's take: "Guys, you're already in the second row!"

Never shy about expressing her views in the briefing room, Thomas began as a White House correspondent for the wire service United Press International in 1960 and retained the seat after becoming an opinion writer for Hearst in 2000. She abruptly retired after independent filmmaker Rabbi David Nesenoff posted footage of her remarks on Israel on the Web. White House spokeman Robert Gibbs called the comments "offensive and reprehensible," and Thomas' press corps colleagues with the White House Correspondents Association issued a rare admonishment calling them "indefensible."

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